Hattiesburg lawyer doubts Cindy Hyde-Smith’s child support proposal

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A bill allowing mothers to seek child support while still pregnant has been proposed by a group of US senators that includes Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi.

The legislation comes as many conservatives, including Hyde-Smith, have called for more help for mothers and children following the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down nationwide abortion access. .

The proposal would amend the federal Social Security Act to add unborn children to the list of people eligible for child support. In the bill, an unborn child is defined as “a member of the species Homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb.”

The bill is primarily sponsored by Sen. Kevin Cramer, R.D., and six other Republican senators join Hyde-Smith as co-sponsors. In the House, Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., sponsored identical legislation.

“I hope good legislation, like the Unborn Child Support Act, gets more support now that the Dobbs decision encourages us to think more seriously about supporting mothers and their unborn children,” Hyde-Smith said. “This legislation would help ensure opportunities for women to receive child support from the earliest days of pregnancy.

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Longtime Hattiesburg family law attorney S. Christopher Farris also said he sees a connection between the decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and the group of Republicans choosing to sponsor this legislation. He called the proposal “political”.

“I think it’s a response to Roe v. Wade, as a way to provide support to these mothers, to encourage them to go down the road of adoption, versus what used to be the road of abortion, because what you’re about to have is just all these pregnant women who can’t afford to have a child, who can’t afford to pay for health care,” Farris said.

Farris said he supports the spirit of the legislation. He said his practice sees “just as many paternity cases as divorce cases,” which was not the case before. That said, he doubts it will become law.

“Anything that requires the father of a child to take responsibility and support the mother of his child and that child is a good thing. And the intention is good,” Farris said. “The problem is not that anything that looks like a good idea can be implemented.”

For one, it’s impossible to prove paternity through a DNA test while a fetus is still in the womb, Farris said.

“It’s going to be impossible to get to that level,” Farris said. “You’re going to have to establish who the responsible party is. Now, if I get someone who comes in and says, ‘Yeah, that’s my kid. Yeah, that will work. But if there’s a conflict – I mean, I have cases now where people raise kids for five, six years, get divorced and find out the kid isn’t theirs.

Additionally, laws already exist in many states, including Mississippi, that allow a judge to retroactively award child support to a mother.

“We already have in play a mother’s right to file a paternity action, to establish the father, his support obligation, his health insurance obligation,” Farris said. “And it gives the chancery judge the discretion to award up to 12 months of back support.”

With only Republican support so far, and a Democrat-controlled Congress and White House, the path forward for Hyde-Smith’s unborn child support law remains unclear. If the bill were to pass, Farris predicts that the lack of ability to identify the father would mean things wouldn’t play out much differently than they already do, with judges having to award child support after the child’s birth. ‘child.

“Every time I hear someone say, ‘We need to pass this law,’ I say, ‘Guess what? We already have three,'” Farris said. “Why don’t we go read the ones we have instead of playing new ones every year?”

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